Last night on Twitter, I was thrilled to find that my sentiments on nerd culture being “mainstream” were echoed. Allow me to elaborate further.
Timeenforceranubis tweeted about the topic. For those who are unaware, Timeenforceranubis is an African-American blogger who talks about the anime fandom, and in particular, the western fanbase. He brings up factors such as the clamor for more art, and contempt for fanbases for moe and ecchi anime. I have a very strong respect for his work, even if I may not agree with some of his viewpoints. I also believe that the points he brings up are relevant to the larger discussion. One that I now seek to have.
The truth is that the “mainstream” status of nerd culture is a manufactured image created by businessmen and not something that has actually been achieved. Indeed, the vast majority of “nerdy” interests remain niche. Animation is still generally seen as “kids’ stuff”, only a select few video game properties have achieved widespread recognition and approval, and while superhero films may be big in the box office, the comic books they’re based on remain fringe. In truth, geek culture has not been accepted. It has been assimilated. It has been subjugated. This is not an ideal image for a fandom as it gives a not-so-subtle message of “conform or get out”.
What this means is that nothing has changed. If you are a gamer, you have to enjoy Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto to be taken seriously, if you’re trying to talk about comics, you will get nowhere unless there is an accompanying movie adaptation, and above all else, you do not want to try to discuss anime with anyone. Never mind that western anime fans have constructed a hierarchy to place fans of certain shows on top. And when kids are still mocked at school simply for the fact that they like to read, the situation looks even worse as no geek can pass.
And that is the prime problem with nerd culture being assimilated. In this process, we only accept the people and things that are fit to be assimilated. That means that comic books, anime, and their fanbases remain out in the cold.
But we don’t have to buy into the media’s farce. As a matter of fact, one of the biggest things you can do to avoid fading into the crowd is to engage in discussion of the larger nerd culture, beyond the manufactured image of nerddom, and talk about what it really is. We are not a hive mind of drones that like all of the same stuff. We are individuals, each with our own unique interests and chosen media. We are not interested in assimilating into “normal” societal culture or helping to manufactured a false narrative. We are simply interested in discussing our hobbies in the same way that anybody else would. And remember that this is a two-way street, so if you attempt to derail someone talking about their interests with what the mainstream says we’re supposed to be interested in, then that makes us less likely to care about what you enjoy.